Say you’ve got a restaurant with a solid crowd of regulars. How do you get your business noticed by even more customers — and get them to keep coming back to boost your restaurant sales? Marketing creates a strong (and easy) solution.
Marketing for restaurants can take many forms: handing out menu flyers, hiring a performer to dress up and point passersby to your location, or running a robust 360-degree campaign. Most restaurants won’t thrive on word of mouth referrals and foot traffic alone. While it may look different to different businesses, most restaurants will eventually need to use some form of marketing to gain exposure. But once you’ve mastered marketing your restaurant, you can tap into a gold mine of sales.
Why should restaurants turn to marketing
There are many fluctuating factors that affect sales: special events, volatile weather, the economy, even political elections. But all around the world, repeat customers lead to sustained business.
Marketing increases stability, leveraging the channels that lead to more customers. In this blog post, we share 6 of the best low-cost (or free!) techniques you can use to capture new customers and turn them into loyal fans.
Boost your image
1. Optimize your restaurant website.
First thing’s first: if you don’t already have a website (or your existing site is out of date), start there. Almost 90% of customers use the web to find restaurants or read your menu.If important details like the cuisine you serve, your hours, and the restaurant location aren’t easy to find, diners are likely to move on and continue searching for something that sounds like what they’re craving. If you’re starting from scratch, consider finding a local web developer to help bolster your website — or explore your web-hosting platform settings as many offer built-in templates to help design your site.
2. Focus on your branding.
Everything from your logo to the look and feel of your menu can influence customer perceptions, so you’ll want to ensure your designs accurately reflect your restaurant. The design can actually hint at the type of cuisine, atmosphere, and mission you bring to the table. Think about how a cupcake bakery has a very different brand identity than an upscale sushi eatery — these visual cues can help customers understand what you’re offering. Graphic design doesn’t have to be in your repertoire to create expert collateral, either: free online editing tools like Canva have endless professional-quality filters and templates to explore.
Encourage social media sharing by building a presence on popular social media sites, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This is the best way to reach the 50% of Gen Z and 42% of Millennial diners who rely on social media to discover new businesses.
3. Engage in creative ways.
Share a sneak peek of your meals, announce daily specials, talk to customers, repost photos they share, and more. This digital engagement forges connections with your diners and helps new customers find you via tags and geotags.
4. Use social scheduling and monitoring tools.
If staying on top of social channels sounds daunting, know that it doesn’t have to be. Running a restaurant may be time-consuming, but you can get back hours of your time by planning your social calendar a week or two ahead. Use a handy scheduling platform like HootSuite or Buffer to load and schedule content across multiple social media accounts, ensuring you never miss a post. It’s a good idea to make sure you or another member of your team sets aside time to comment back to customers — so you can keep up the dialogue around your delicious food.
Engage with the community
5. Stay active on review sites.
When it comes to choosing to dine — or not to dine — at a particular spot, most customers around the world report looking at online reviews ahead of time. And lots of customers leave reviews online via sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor after their visit. It can go a long way to reply to the reviews you receive and acknowledge the customer’s experience. Even if their experience wasn’t the most positive, more often than not you’ll be able to change their mind. Providing this additional level of customer service can frame your restaurant in its best light.
6. Start a restaurant loyalty program.
A recent study found that up to 70% of restaurant customers never return after their first visit. But you can reward those who visit your business again and again with a loyalty program — many of which are easy to set up through the POS system you already have, such as LevelUp or Square. Many built-in rewards programs let customers claim a free item or receive a discounts once they hit a certain number of visits or dollars spent, providing an incentive for them to keep coming back.
Leave customers hungry for more
Remember, the ultimate goal of these marketing efforts is not only to entice new customers to dine with you, but to convince them to come back often. Even a little awareness goes a long way. Once you start channeling attention into your marketing strategy, we can almost guarantee you’ll see profits start to climb, ratings start to rise, and customer satisfaction skyrocket.